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This is a sub-article of Islamic criminal jurisprudence and Blood money.

Qiṣāṣ (Arabic: قصاص‎) is an Islamic term meaning equal "retaliation" or revenge.[1][2] In the case of murder, it means the right of a murder victim's nearest relative or Wali (ولي) (legal guardian) to, if the court approves, take the life of the killer.[3]

Qisas is one of several forms of punishment in Islamic Penal Law, others being Hudud, Diyya and Ta'zir.[4]

Islamic scriptures[edit]

The Qisas or equivalance verse in Quran is,[1]

O ye who believe! the law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.

Quran 2:178

The Hadiths have extensive discussion of qisas. For example, Sahih Bukhari states,

Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims."

Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:17

Narrated Anas: The daughter of An-Nadr slapped a girl and broke her incisor tooth. They (the relatives of that girl), came to the Prophet and he gave the order of Qisas (equality in punishment).

Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:32

Qisas system of punishment is prescribed in Quran and Hadiths to any case of unnatural death (murder, manslaughter), bodily injury or aggravated assault suffered by a Muslim.[5] However, in the history of Islam, many premodern Islamic scholars ruled that Qisas did not apply when the victim was a non-Muslim dhimmi and to non-Muslim slaves owned by a Muslim.[6]

Narrated Abu Juhaifa: I asked 'Ali "Do you have anything Divine literature besides what is in the Qur'an?" Or, as Uyaina once said, "Apart from what the people have?" 'Ali said, "By Him Who made the grain split (germinate) and created the soul, we have nothing except what is in the Quran and the ability (gift) of understanding Allah's Book which He may endow a man, with and what is written in this sheet of paper." I asked, "What is on this paper?" He replied, "The legal regulations of Diya (Blood-money) and the (ransom for) releasing of the captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed in Qisas (equality in punishment) for killing a Kafir (disbeliever)."

Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:50 see also Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:3:111 Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:283 Sunan Abu Dawood, 39:4515

Alternative to qisas[edit]

The Qur'an also allows aggrieved parties to receive monetary compensation (blood money, diyya, دية) instead of qisas,[7] or forfeit the right of qiṣāṣ as an act of charity or in atonement for the victim family's past sins.

We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.

Quran 5:45

Pardoning (in the name of God, fī sabīli llāhi) and compensation for crimes such as murder, have led human right activists to ask whether wealthy offenders are unjustly favoured when some money is offered in exchange after the intentional murder or accidental death of a poor person.[8]

Current practice[edit]

Qiṣāṣ is enforced today by a number of states which apply Sharia law, such as Saudi Arabia.[9]


Through sections 1 through 80 of Iran's penal code, Qisas have been enacted as one of the methods of punishment.[10][11] Iran penal code outlines two types of Qisas crime - Qisas for life, and Qisas for part of human body.[12] In cases of qisas for life, the victim's family may with the permission of court, take the life of the murderer. In cases of qisas for part of human body, section 55 of Iran's penal code grants the victim or victim's family to, with permission of the court, inflict an equal injury to the perpetrator's body. If the victim lost the right hand and perpetrator does not have a right hand for qisas, then with court's permission, the victim may cut the left hand of the perpetrator.[12]


Pakistan introduced Qisas and Diyat in 1990 as Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Ordinance, after the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court had declared that the lack of Qisas and Diyat were repugnant to the injunctions of Islam as laid down by the Quran and Sunnah.[13] Pakistani parliament enacted the law of Qisas and Diyat as Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1997.[14] An offender may still be punished despite pardoning by way of ta'zīr (principle of fasād fī 'l-arḍ) or if not all the persons entitled to Qisas joined in the compromise.[15]

Acid attack

In Iran, qiṣāṣ was demanded by Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman blinded in an acid attack. She demanded that her attacker Majiv Movahedi be blinded as well.[16] In 2011, Bahrami retracted her demand on the day the sentence was to be carried out, requesting instead that her attacker be pardoned.[17]

Girl bride as punishment for relative's crime

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Qisas is practiced as Vani (ونی)[18] and Swara (سوارہ, also called Ba'ad[19]) wherein young girls are forcibly given away as a bride as part of punishment and Qisas compromise settlement (Badal-i-Sulh) for a crime committed by her male relatives.[20][21][22]

Related concepts[edit]

A legal concept similar to Qisas is the principle of Eye for an eye first recorded in the Code of Hammurabi.


  1. ^ a b Mohamed S. El-Awa (1993), Punishment In Islamic Law, American Trust Publications, ISBN 978-0892591428
  2. ^ Shahid M. Shahidullah, Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: Global and Local Perspectives, ISBN 978-1449604257, pp. 370-372
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, Qisas (2012)
  4. ^ Asghar Schirazi (1997), The Constitution of Iran : politics and the state in the Islamic Republic, I.B. Tauris London, pp. 222-225
  5. ^ Shahid M. Shahidullah, Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: Global and Local Perspectives, ISBN 978-1449604257
  6. ^ Anver M. Emon (2012), Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law: Dhimmis and Others in the Empire of Law, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199661633, pp. 237-249; Quote "Muslim jurists defended this discriminatory application of qisas liability by reference to a hadith in which the Prophet said: 'A believer is not killed for an unbeliever or one without a convenant during his residency.' Jurists who constructed discriminatory rules of liability relied on the first half of the hadith. Furthermore, they argued that these discriminatory rules reflected the fact that Muslims were of a higher class than their non-Muslim co-residents."; Quote 2 "Furthermore, using the logical inference of a minore ad maius, Al-Mawardi held that just as a Muslim bears no liability for sexually slandering a dhimmi, he cannot be liable for killing one, a much more serious offense.
  7. ^ Christie S. Warren, Islamic Criminal Law, Oxford University Press, Qisas
  8. ^ "Qisas being used by the wealthy to avoid trial: CJ". The Express Tribune (Pakistan), 3 October 2013 (concerning the murder of Shahzeb Khan).
  9. ^ A Brief Overview of the Saudi Arabian Legal System, July 2008
  10. ^ A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran, March 2006
  11. ^ Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Book 3
  12. ^ a b Shahid M. Shahidullah, Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: Global and Local Perspectives, ISBN 978-1-4496-0425-7, pp. 425-426
  13. ^ Federation of Pakistan v. Gul Hasan Khan, PLD 1989 SC 633–685, affirming PLD 1980 Pesh 1–20 and PLD 1980 FSC 1–60
  14. ^ see PPC ss. 299–338-H; Tahir Wasti (2009), The Application of Islamic Criminal Law in Pakistan: Sharia in Practice, ISBN 978-90-04-17225-8, Brill, p. 8
  15. ^ PPC s. 311; Azmat and another v. The State, PLD 2009 SC 768
  16. ^ "In Iran, a case of an eye for an eye" Phillie Metro March 29, 2009
  17. ^ "Iranian sentenced to be blinded for acid attack is pardoned" (BBC News, 31 July 2011)
  18. ^ Banning the Tradition of Vani (Giving Female as Consideration for Compromise), p. 361, at Google Books, Commonwealth Law Bulletin, Volume 30, Pakistan Law Commission Report 51, pp. 361-363
  19. ^ Alissa Rubin, For Punishment of Elder’s Misdeeds, Afghan Girl Pays the Price, New York Times, February 16, 2012
  20. ^ Bedell, J. M. (2009), Teens in Pakistan, Capstone
  21. ^ Vani verdict The Tribune (IHT / New York Times Group), Pakistan (October 9, 2012)
  22. ^ Vani a social evil Anwar Hashmi and Rifat Koukab, The Fact (Pakistan), (July 2004)

See also[edit]